Recession Buster: Groceries

Reporter: Helen Wellings

We used to do the one big weekly shop, but new research shows we now go to the supermarket 2 to 3 times a week on average. Each spend is $35 to $40 on average for around 10 items. The good thing about going a few times a week is you can capitalize on the price cuts as they appear throughout the week. But when are they?

There are 3,000 - 4,000 specials in any week at the supermarket. Out of 30,000 product lines - that's more than one in 10 items discounted every day. But on top of that are some of the biggest money-savers ... if you know exactly when to shop.

"I have a few secrets about shopping and one of them is if you shop on certain days you can slash at least 50% off your grocery bill, that's alot of money" says Cath Armstrong.

Cath Armstrong is a professional budgeter! She runs a website, Cheapskates, where 70,000 member shoppers exchange information on how to save. We asked Cath to go shopping for us - how much she could save at the supermarket and when does she get the red-hot specials!

"Shop for the mark-downs on the mark down days" says Cath.

These are the impromptu bargains, that might only be available for a couple of hours or only on certain days. They're marked right down to the bone because the supermarket wants to get rid of them.

"Early in the morning late in the evening the meat section is full of bargains, we check the use-by dates on meat and start marking down prices." Andrew Hall of Woolworths and Mark Howie of Richies Super IGA share some insider tips on best times.

"At your local supermarket if you find out the times they do the mark-downs you can come in and grab a bargain most times and rarely pay full price for anything" says Mark.

"If you want bargains in bread, later in the day because we bake every day, we'll be marking down the bread. It is 20, 40, 60% off and usually after 5pm is the best time to come along and see what's left" says Andrew.

Every day at 3 or mid-afternoons, the price of finger buns tumbles.

Usually early in the morning for yesterday's cakes and pastries.

"Timing can be everything and the cooked chicken for example, we don't like to keep them on display more than 3 to 4 hours, so this chicken cooked this morning at 7.10 we will start marking that down in the next half hr, 20% 40 %, until it sells" adds Andrew.

The Woolies supermarket catalogues land in your letter box on Mondays, Coles arrives on Thursdays. Thursdays too in Woolies brings on another round of bargains for the next few days. Look for the biggest price-cuts in prominent positions at the end of the aisles.

"Senior Citizens love our Seniors day. It's every Tuesday and they receive a 5% discount on all purchases. They can shop for all the specials and go through the registers and get another 5% off" says Andrew.

"Wednesday for perhaps juices and dairy products… save more than 50% this was $5.09 marked down to $2.49… this Ski Yogurt was $7.19, marked down to $3 that's 60% off" said Cath.

Cheapest days for fruit and vegies .. end of the week.

"Particularly on Thursdays, Fridays and the weekend our buyers go to the big markets and at the front of the store is what they buy, the special produce they can get at the markets at special prices" says Andrew.

Find the cheapest right at the front.

So what did Cath save buying these items at the right times, right days at Coles? Instead of $64.20 she bagged them for $42 .. saving $22.20, 34.5% saved!

Cath Armstrong advises, be flexible, switch to what's cheap to make the most of reductions - freeze what you can't use that day.

"Shop with a list, look for the mark-downs, don't be afraid to try the generic products, shop once for the week, the fortnight, the month, and stick to your list" advises Cath.

And with the latest bureau of Statistics figures telling us all food prices, with the exception of milk, have risen yet again, Helen Wellings tips on how to buy cheap are very timely.